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More O2 Production Stuff......

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Again, not sure if this has been posted before, but here's some more techy stuff, this time from Pro-Light News an events lighting industry site. Three different articles, with the link to the original at the end of each.


LED screen of 280 m2 at Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert with Led Zeppelin

There is much talk about the blurring of boundaries between production disciplines these days, but with the only set element of this landmark production being a 280m2 LED screen supplied by audiovisual services company Creative Technology, what was achieved for the Tribute Concert to Ahmet Ertegun on 10th December at London’s O2 Arena was a big step closer to a fully integrated approach.

This screen-based design was conceived as a team with a collaborative think tank formed of a number of people, headed up by Harvey Goldsmith Productions Jim Baggott, the team included Set Designer Peter Bingemann, London-based design agency Thinkfarm, with its projection/animation design team, comprising owner Mark Norton, Nenad Bogovevic and David Daniels, video coordinator Mike Walker from Live & Direct and Led Zeppelin representative Steve Iredale. This design was integrated with the lighting design from Dave Hill, using equipment from PRG, with video direction from Dick Carruthers at Cheese Film & Video. Together with Creative Technology (CT), who provided the screen and necessary processing equipment, the team’s collaborative effort produced something that took this artistic element of a live show to a new level.

The original idea was to use a projection system for the video, but it soon became apparent that LED was a much better solution. With a vast 280m2 (28 x 10m) of screen, and a limited load in time at the O2, a system that was quickly and easily rigged was a necessity so the decision was made to use an Element Labs Stealth screen. This had the added advantage of being partially transparent, allowing Hill to rig lighting behind it, thus giving him an added dimension to utilise within his design.

As well as the Stealth screen, CT supplied two standard 6x6 panel Barco OLite612 LED screens, positioned stage left and right, which were used during the support bands’ sets as well as for the video story of Ahmet Ertegun and his Foundation. This was edited together by Cheese Film & Video and shown before the concert as an introduction to the evening. At the beginning of Led Zeppelin’s set, the two side screens disappeared and a set of curtains opened to reveal the full impact of the Stealth screen.

Technical rehearsals for the event had begun at Elstree Studios two weeks prior to the show date, moving on to Shepperton Studios for the final week of rehearsals. “The original idea was to do everything at Elstree,” says CT Production Manager, Alex Leinster. “But because the date of the show had to be moved when Jimmy Page broke his finger, Elstree wasn’t available for the entire period.

“In some ways it worked to our advantage by giving us another chance to run through a load in and out. Timings at the O2 were very tight and, although it comes in a collapsed fan shape and cantilevers out of the flight cases making it really quick to rig, with only two hours allowed to get the Stealth screen floating off the deck it was no bad thing to be able to have a bit more practice.”

“We arrived at the O2 at 8am on the 9th December,” adds CT’s Business Development Manager, Adrian Offord. “Complete set up for all the screens we were using, including cabling and fault finding, had to be done by 4.30pm for a band walk through at 5pm. This was one of the main reasons the Stealth screen was used, as its set up time is considerably less than with other systems.”

Content was a combination of Thinkfarm’s animated footage, integrated with Dick Carruther’s live camera feeds. “We inhabit a world at Thinkfarm that is not always rock‘n’roll and entertainment,” says Mark Norton. “But I’ve worked in and out of the music and entertainment world for a long time and was brought in to integrate the video element into the set and lighting design, working very closely with Dave [Hill] and Dick [Carruthers] to achieve that.”

The use of the screen was controlled so that the show didn’t just become about what was on it and programming for this was no simple task. But, in the hands of Richard Turner, who was using a Spyder Video Processor from Vista Systems, it became as much a creative as a number crunching process. The multi-layered Spyder system utilised 16 channels to address various areas of the screen individually, the mixes being taken from Carruthers’ desk and turned into two separate blocks of information that the screen processors could understand.

As the show developed and more programming was completed, the team worked out various different methods for doing things. “There would be one, two or even three layers of playback material,” explains Carruthers. “In a song like Kashmir, Richard would be taking that directly from the two six channel hi def LSM processors, other times I would be mixing this in with live shots upstream.”

The entire system was kept in uncompressed HD, using two six-channel EVS devices, as well as mixing on a Snell & Wilcox Kahuna HD/SD production switcher that ran in parallel to the Calypso situated in the OB truck. As the job grew and it became obvious that there was going to be a large amount of HD cameras, it made sense to get an HD OB unit in, so Carruthers also requested a specific Video Production Manager, Mary Jefferson, and to have Jim Parsons as Producer.

The end result was a combination of abstract images and soft edged video, creating a mood and pace appropriate for each song: strong and vibrant in some places; more ethereal in others. “The pace, the colourisation and use of imagery speak volumes,” says Carruthers. “You could have a huge image during Stairway to Heaven, but have only a certain amount of impact because it was a slow, gentle mix. Whereas something like Black Dog had a much smaller image size, but because of the way it was ‘mashed up’ and negative, with black silhouettes and quite fast cut, it really hit you in the face.”

The overall feeling from the team was that it had achieved a transcendence of the old school lights/screen competitive thinking. “I think we got the overall balance right,” says Carruthers. “The screen was never intrusive, it always felt like a backdrop and had a good combination of animation and live content and a variation of shapes and mixes.”

The effort that was put into this amazing show was easily equal to that which would be put into a major worldwide stadium sized tour. In fact more so and, with no margin for error or the chance to improve things for the following show, the result was spectacular.

“This is the biggest screen that has been put into the O2,” concludes Offord. “From CT’s point of view, it was great to be back there after we had been there with Elton John’s 200m2 screen just a month prior. This was a wonderful event and it was an honour to be involved in such a high profile project.”

Link:Pro-Light News: Video


Led Zeppelin perform at Ahmet Ertegun memorial concert at 02 arena

With the frenzy of media and music industry interest in the show, there was a huge amount of pressure on UK rental companies Brittania Row and Major Tom Ltd. which together provided the show’s entire audio requirements including an FOH Meyer Sound system as well as higly sophisticated Earthworks microphones or state of the art digital gear such as a Midas XL8 mixing console, to deliver a sound which lived up to everyone’s expectations - and a large part of the considerable pressure fell on the shoulders of Front of House engineer ‘Big’ Mick Hughes (Metallica), Robert Plant's FOH Roy Williams, and Dee Miller at the monitor position.

Should the FOH sound replicate Zeppelin as they sounded in the 1970s, or should the sound be more modern, taking advantage of the intervening three decades of audio technology development? “At first I tried to listen to all the opinions, but in the end I knew that I had to just do it in a way that the band was happy with and that I thought would work,” says Mick. “So I had a lot of discussions with them during rehearsals and approached it the way I thought best. “I took the modern approach and backdated the sound a little bit, although I pulled it back a bit from recreating the old sound too much. For example, I went for the ‘airy’ feel, but to avoid the big, gated drum sound. I just had a loose gate on the bass drum, but the rest were ungated.”

Major Tom Ltd deployed a Meyer Sound sound system comprised of 72 MILO curvilinear loudspeakers, with a center hang of six MICA curvilinear loudspeakers, and ten flown 700-HP subwoofers per side. Ground stacks included nine 700-HPs per side, and four MICAs per side for outfill. In addition, one MICA per side along with eight UPA-1Ps were strung across the stage lip for front fills. Three Galileo loudspeaker management systems handled 36 outputs, and a SIM 3 audio analyzer was used by Meyer Sound's Director of European Technical Support Luke Jenks to tune the system.

Lars Brogaard, whose rental company Major Tom Ltd. provided the Meyer Sound system, was originally introduced to the project by Paul Owen, vice president of US-based rental company Thunder Audio. Over the past several years, the two companies have worked closely to provide sound systems for Metallica, Robert Plant, John Legend, Diana Ross and Rod Stewart.

Brogaard highlights modern rigging hardware as a key advancement since the days when Led Zeppelin toured regularly. "At a gig like this, you have only a few hours to fly everything and make sure all the speakers are exactly where they should be," says Brogaard. "Modern boxes like MILO are properly set up for this kind of operation and so, we had no problems whatsoever. There is just no comparison with setting up for a gig in the '70s."

Thus, everything was ready to please the audience with exactly the sound Big Mick and Roy Williams would go for. This was the first time Big Mick had done a show in the O2 arena and only his second time of using a Midas XL8 console ‘in anger’, as it were. “It was quite bizarre at first,” says Mick. “Because I’ve been working with Metallica for over 20 years, we have developed their live sound over that time. Nobody can tell me what Metallica should sound like live. But, when it came to the Zeppelin show, it seemed that everyone and their dog had an opinion of what the band should sound like!”

"I was in a dilemma," says Hughes, who was concerned that diehard fans who'd paid thousands of dollars for tickets might resent any attempt to update the classic Led Zeppelin sound. In the end, Big Mick's love of bottom end proved a decisive factor: "I listened back to some of the old bootleg albums that were made of Led Zeppelin gigs in the '70s, and really, there is no bass on them at all—not because you couldn't record it, but because the sound reinforcement systems at the time couldn't reproduce it. At the risk of upsetting the purists, I decided that the gig had to sound like it was 2007. So we mixed it as if Led Zeppelin had never stopped playing in the time since their last gig, 27 years earlier."

With sound technology having changed so much in the intervening years, microphone selection was something that Mick had to consider very carefully. With so many specialised products now available, the inventive use of certain mics for their non-intended purpose is no longer necessary, but that would inevitably change the sound. “On the old footage, it’s incredible to see what mics were used on what jobs,” says Mick. “I approached it using similar techniques, but using modern mics and the full bandwidth of the console and PA.”

To achieve optimum sound quality, Mick used an array of Earthworks Audio high definition microphones, complemented by Audio-Technica and Shure products. Jason Bonham’s drums featured a mix of Earthworks SR25s, SR30s and TC30s, with Audio-Technica ATM350s on the toms, a Shure SM57 and a Beta 52. “I really wanted to recreate that big, open Led Zeppelin drum sound,” he says. “So as well as the close mics, I used a pair of Earthworks SR25s arrayed as X-Y axis mics, which is something I’d never done before, complemented by a further pair of SR25s deployed as overheads.”

One of the advantages of the Earthworks microphones was that the company manufactures the KickPad, a little inline unit that adds pre-emphasis to kick drum mics, adding presence and punch to a sound that often needs a little extra zip to make it stand out in a live mix.

A mixture if DIs and Beta 52s were used on John Paul Jones’s bass guitar, bass pedal and keyboard rig, while Jimmy Page’s guitar cabinets and Theremin featured Audio-Technica AE 2500s and 4050s. Robert Plant’s lead vocals came courtesy of the Shure SM58. The total was 32 inputs, including a couple of VT playback lines from the video production team.

“Although I’m mainly an analogue guy, and this was only my second outing in the digital world, I had used the XL8 on stadium dates with Metallica last year and loved it,” says Mick. “I did toy with using an XL4, but the show was a bit of an unknown quantity before we got into rehearsals and it would have been hard to plan ahead on an analogue console. For example, planning every last bit of outboard we needed would have been a problem, especially the logistical issue of if we’d had to try and hire in another effects unit at the last moment. But with the XL8 we were able to simply dial in the onboard effects as required. As it was, we ended up with a total of 70 channels, including 30 effects returns, the video playback, house music and so on.”

Another area where having a digital console was very useful was the unsual split of the FOH mix between Hughes mixing the instruments and Roy Williams covering the lead vocal mix. “With the XL8, we were able to allocate the faders in the end bay to the vocal mix, so Roy was able to be very self-contained at one end of the console,” says Mick.

“The band was playing in an adjacent room while I was monitoring on a pair of Genelecs,” Big Mick comments his work during the six weeks of rehearsals, recording the band with Klark Tekniks new digital live recorder DN9696. “I didn’t know what the band’s work ethic was, so the DN9696 gave me the opportunity to record the sessions and then, if the band weren’t there, to work on the mix further. “We identified a phase problem between the microphones on the snare heads and the X-Y mics, because the snare sound was reaching them at different times” he says. “The recorder allowed us to precisely measure the time difference and we then used the delays on the input channels of the XL8 to delay the snare mics and make the sound effectively ‘reach’ the different mics at the same time.”

Despite the early ‘unknowns’ of the show, Mick complemented the onboard processing of the XL8 with a range of outboard equipment, including a Roland SDE3000, TC Helicon VoiceWorks and VoiceDoubler for Plant’s lead vocals, an Eventide H3000SE harmoniser, TC Electronic M6000 effects mainframe and Leslie cabinet emulator. But the onboard effects proved the star of the show on No Quarter, the XL8’s phaser providing the distinctive effect on the lead vocal.

As well as the live mix, an isolated feed was provided to the Fleetwood Mobile, manned by Tim Summerhayes, where every note and nuance if the show was recorded.

Link:Pro-Music News: Sound


Led Zeppelin at the O2 Arena in London 2008

The 2007 live event season ended with a bang on December 10th when Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham performed a tribute concert to late Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun at the 02 Arena in London. It was the legendary band’s first full show together since 1980 and arguably the most anticipated concert in a decade.

Lighting designer and show director for the definitive event was Dave Hill who had a large PRG supplied rig at his disposal that included Martin MAC 2000 Washes and Atomic 3000 strobes. The MAC fixtures, chosen for their proven reliability according to Dave, were spread across the stage (31) and audience (40). “The MAC 2K Wash’s strobe effects and quick color change are always effective,” he stated of the 1200 W MAC fixtures. “The crew were all top draw guys with Mark England leading them as crew chief.” Production manager was Jim Baggott.

Net profits from the concert went to the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, which provides scholarships for gifted children. Ertegun signed the band to Atlantic Records in 1969. Upwards of one million people registered for a chance at the 18,000 tickets.

Lighting equipment included 71 x Martin MAC 2000 Wash, 14 x Martin Atomic 3000 strobes, 14 x VL 3500 Wash, 38 x VL 3000 Spots , 1 x 40,000w Lightning Strike, 24 x 2 lite Moles, 20 x 8 lite Moles - 8 on stage, 12 for audience, 26 x 4 lamp ACL bars for audience, 11 x 6 lamp par 64 bars, and 24 x LED lite bricks. Syncrolites comprised 4 x SX3000 (3K), 8 x B52 (5K), 7 x B52D (5K), and 5 x SX10K-D.

Link:Pro-Light News: Lighting

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